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Thursday 21 July 2005
Letters: Tackling the water shortage
Tackling the water shortage with metering and recycling
Sir: I congratulate The Independent on highlighting the problems of water shortages, particularly in south-east England ("Drought alert: the 2005 water crisis", 19 July). What your article failed to mention, however, is the role that water metering could play in making considerable reductions in water use.
I call on the Government to take urgent action to combat the increasing water shortages across England by introducing universal metering. Water metering is a well proven method of reducing water consumption. In the Isle of Wight where universal metering was introduced, use fell by around 10 per cent.
Hosepipe bans are commonplace almost every year in England. Instead of trying to solve the problem by measures such as building more reservoirs or desalinisation plants we should instead be looking to save more of the precious resource we already have. John Prescott's plans for thousands more homes in the South East will put tremendous extra pressure on water resources already made scarcer by climate change and extra demand. The Government must commit itself to universal metering.
NORMAN BAKER MP
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT ENVIRONMENT SPOKESMAN HOUSE OF COMMONS
Sir: After one of the driest winters on record, reservoirs are at pitiful levels - yet we waste billions of gallons of potable water every day flushing away body wastes, cleaning vehicles and watering gardens.
Isn't it time we started recycling "grey water"? It should be compulsory for all new buildings to incorporate a system that would channel waste water from showers, baths, sinks and gutters into recycling tanks, that would be used to flush toilets, clean vehicles, water plants etc. These recycling units have been available for many years now.
As a young boy in the 1950s I can remember being astonished every time I saw my mother using fresh drinking water to wash out a milk bottle before putting it on the doorstep to be collected by the milkman - even though she knew that the bottle would be washed and sterilised back at the dairy.
We cannot continue to be so profligate with a resource that is far more important to life than either oil or gold.
Sir: I do agree with Philip Hensher's view ( 20 July) that the London Mayor's advice not to flush after peeing is ridiculous. However, we must be wary of being too dismissive of the words of such a dignitary. My partner and I have an alternative which saves water without making the toilet unsavoury. Through a mixture of yoga, tantric massage and counselling we have made our urges to pee coincide, so that both of us are relieved with only a single flush.
Muslim 'leaders' are out of touch
Sir: As a young Muslim student studying in east London I have observed with increasing dismay the cascade of events that began with the bombings on 7 July. I have watched the queues of self-professed Muslim leaders who claim to speak on my behalf toe the Government line: that this has nothing to do with Iraq, that there are a few disaffected fanatics in our communities who have been brainwashed and are intent on destruction, and so on.
I feel no affiliation with these spokesmen. They are doing a great disservice to the Muslims of their communities by claiming to represent them while simultaneously dismissing their very legitimate concerns about this Government and its policies. I do not condone the events of 7 July because Islam does not condone them. While these spokesmen continue to emphasise this point they do not feel the same drive to condemn the polices of Britain and America in massacring the civilians of Iraq (Where was the condemnation for Fallujah? Where was the outrage over Bagram?) Did our Muslim leaders observe a two-minute silence for those victims also?
The British people deserve to know the real reason for disaffection and cynicism in the Muslim community. It is not bewitching clerics or firebrand imams, it is the disparity in the value of human life. We identify with the people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya as our own.
Is that really so fanatical?
Sir: For ministers to rubbish the Chatham House view that we have increased our chances of being a terrorist target by acting as a "pillion passenger" of the United States diminishes them beyond belief.
This respected organisation has not actually said that 7/7 was caused directly by our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, although I seem to remember that the security services warned of this very likelihood when we first invaded. It does, however, clearly understand probability: the more enemies you make, the more you increase your chances of being attacked. Kids in a playground can understand that. It is pity the people who run this country do not.
Media distortion causes alienation
Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's column "The hypocrisy of Blair's call on Muslims" (18 July) has just about kept my fading hope alive. I have been as dismayed by the mainstream media's response to this terrorist attack as by the attack itself. The question as to why the bombings were perpetrated has been answered overwhelmingly by the interminable distortions, lies and propaganda that largely caused the attacks in the first place. True to form, while the mainstream press has obsessed over apparent problems within the Muslim community in Britain, the fact is that the reason why many Muslims feel so utterly alienated from British political culture is its systematic denial of the brutal realities of past and present British foreign policy.
The best response to the London bombings, I suggest, is not simply that Muslims integrate more into mainstream culture and politics but that we non-Muslims, in solidarity with our Muslim neighbours, inform ourselves such that we too come to feel radically alienated from and constructively - rather than destructively - critical of this mainstream propaganda. I honestly see no other way of switching off terrorism's life support.
Sir: Tony Blair's asserts that the bombings in London were not an act of revenge for the Iraq war. As Otto von Bismarck put it: "Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied."
F P HUGHES
HAWKESBURY ONTARIO, CANADA
We must change to promote peace
Sir: Following the London bomb attacks, the message from Tony Blair appears to be that "we should not change our way of life". I suggest that on the contrary, we must adapt and adjust our "way of life" in the UK to accommodate with pride and dignity the changes in the make-up of the peoples and customs of our population and to provide all our young people with feelings of belonging and hope, instead of the despair that might lead to acts of destruction and self-destruction.
The assertion that "we will not change" belies the fact that this country and the world has had to change its "way of life" in order to move (for example) from slavery and serfdom to today. The United Kingdom has no written constitution and so the tenets of our "way of life" are often varied to ease social transitions.
It seems to me that if we do not begin today to adjust our way of life to accommodate peaceful co-existence tomorrow, then our children and grandchildren may be lost. A short-term decision to attempt to bomb London or Baghdad into submission may or may not succeed, but such an eventuality will not improve the prospects for our children and grandchildren.
Heaven awaits all of the righteous
Sir: While I cannot comment on Christian and Muslim views of access to heaven, I can reassure John Whiting ("An almighty mess", letter, 19 July) that the Jewish, or, as he terms it, Hebrew fundamentalist, attitude is that "the righteous of all peoples have a place in the world to come". This explains why Judaism, though prepared to accept converts, does not actively proselytise; eternity is not the sole preserve of the Jewish people.
Following another basic Jewish teaching of always judging one's fellow in the best possible light, I hope to make his acquaintance there when we both depart this world.
MARTIN D STERN
SALFORD, GREATER MANCHESTER
School funding sums don't add up
Sir: The Department for Education and Skills believes schools have received sufficient funding to pay for teachers' release for planning and preparation (report, 19 July). The primary school of which I am a governor must therefore be uniquely unfortunate.
We have 16 class teachers each due release for 10 per cent of the week. We also have a number of part-time teachers for English as a second language and for extra tuition for children with special needs, all getting their proportionate allocation. In order to provide for this we are paying for extra time from qualified teachers, rather than putting teaching assistants in charge of classes. The total cost in the coming school year will be £77,406. Our grant for the programme is £553.
We can just about afford this for one year, then the whole thing will collapse and we shall have to break the law. Ruth Kelly is welcome to come in and show us how to do it.
CHAIR OF GOVERNORS
FORSTER PARK PRIMARY SCHOOL LONDON SE6
Sir: During the top-up fees debate, we were told that increasing university tuition fees would allow the Government to invest in "early years" provision. But now we read that class sizes are getting bigger as a result of cuts (19 July). If the Government is serious about raising aspirations, more funding needs to be available at all spectrums of the education sector. The NUS stands with the teaching unions in calling for an inquiry into the current schools budget.
NUS VICE PRESIDENT EDUCATION LONDON N7
BBC Sport on track for Manchester
Sir: You report that "the BBC has been forced to shelve its plans to move to Manchester" (18 July). We have done no such thing. The proposed move of some of our most important production and commissioning departments is a central pillar of our plans for the next decade set out in "Building Public Value", designed to create a future BBC positioned to provide the best possible broadcasting service for all its audiences in all parts of the UK. The move has been approved in principle by the Board of Governors, and they will be scrutinising detailed plans during the autumn, in order to ensure they provide the best possible value for licence payers.
You state that the "shelving" follows London's successful Olympic bid. It is absurd to suggest that BBC Sport can only cover an Olympic event if the whole department happens to be based in the same city. Perhaps your next report will be about BBC Sport moving to Beijing in 2008?
DIRECTOR-GENERAL, BBC LONDON W12
Sir: It is certainly fair to draw comparisons between the suicide bombings in London and those in Israel ("Israel and London are not equivalent", letters, 18 July). In both cases the terrorists have deliberately targeted members of the public as a protest against a particular government. Even if one has sympathy with the Palestinian cause, the use of suicide bombings is just as nihilistic and barbaric in Tel Aviv as it is in London.
WALLASEY, MERSEYSIDE 0
No more faith schools
Sir: Surely Blair and his government must now reconsider their commitment to faith schools. Segregation based on religion cannot be the way forward when integration and tolerance are so crucial to the next generation.
Sir: According to Michael Brown, Sir Edward Heath was "the first Tory leader of the 20th century not to have come from the aristocracy" ("How Ted Heath inspired us young Tories", 19 July).
The 20th century Tories had other non-aristocratic leaders. Bonar Law was the son of Presbyterian minister. Austen and Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin came from upper-middle class stock in the Midlands. And while Harold Macmillan married the daughter of a duke, he himself was the son of a successful publisher. Heath was the first lower-middle class Tory leader but that is a different matter.
Sir: Ted Heath might have died from any of a range of illnesses associated with the ageing process, but he did not die of "old age", as stated in your report of 18 July. Old age is not an illness and until such time as quality papers stop using such terminology ageism will continue to thrive.
Sir: I note David Cameron's question reported in Simon Carr's column (15 July) . How could Maria Eagle explain that 22 per cent of private school pupils were diagnosed with dyslexia but only 2 per cent in state schools? Could it be that middle-class parents of privately educated children have found out that children diagnosed with dyslexia can get up to 25 per cent longer to complete their examination papers?
Sir: It was OK for 1,700 naked people to walk across the Millennium Bridge in Gateshead (report, 18 July), but the naked rambler just keeps getting arrested (In Brief, 20 July). What is it about his nakedness that makes it such a threat? Would he be more successful if he called himself an installation artist? Or should he ask 1,699 naked friends to join him on his walks?
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